Category Archives: Daily Telegraph

#Fail. Major #fail

Let’s recognise another hard truth: the once-mighty Daily Telegraph is now no more than a click-bait channel. Here we have 40 things that every man should know by the age of 40. Number 16:

There’s little room for reading fiction 

At some stage in your 30s, the disruptive voice in your head started clanging pans and yelling THEY’RE MAKING IT UP!

Which yell — D’oh! — is surely the whole point of “fiction”.

So here am I, just finished Philip Kerr, and well into Donna Leon. Bubbling on the back hob is Walter Scott (yes: I can double-task. And still drink wine at the same time). Looking forward to Alan Furst next month. And Ben Aaronovitch a month later. Any gaps will be glossed over by visits to Waterstone’s and similar joints. Failing that, there’s a dozen metres or so of shelving here to be revisited. And one day — I promise — I’ll live long enough to get through Moby Dick.

Obviously I never grew up. But that’s another story.

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Filed under Ben Aaronovitch, Daily Telegraph, Donna Leon, fiction, Literature, reading

British journalists, political bombshells and forgeries

I used to ascribe it to Hilaire Belloc, because I have a liking for Belloc’s epigrams. It was, in fact Humbert Wolff, a civil servant with the Ministry of Labour, a translator and writer.

You cannot hope to bribe or twist, thank God! the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there’s no occasion to.

Good Friday

Which leads us to this extraordinary business when a secret document, presumably via the Foreign Office (prop: the Rt Hon Philip Hammond, as in very Right and oh-so-honourable), finds its way to the Daily Telegraph.

The Daily Telegraph has seen the official British Government memorandum which includes details of a private meeting between Miss Sturgeon and Sylvie Bermann, the French Ambassador to the UK. 

The memorandum which was written by a senior British civil servant, dated March 6th, states: “Just had a telephone conversation with Pierre-Alain Coffinier (PAC), the French CG [consul-general]. He was keen to fill me in on some of the conversations his Ambassador had during her visit to Scotland last week. All of this was given on a confidential basis.” 

It continues: “The Ambassador….had a truncated meeting with the FM [Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister] (FM running late after a busy Thursday…). Discussion appears to have focused mainly on the political situation, with the FM stating that she wouldn’t want a formal coalition with Labour; that the SNP would almost certainly have a large number of seats… that she’d rather see David Cameron remain as PM (and didn’t see Ed Miliband as PM material).”

The thought has to be “just too convenient”. Note the incriminating fingerprints:

  • the Torygraph has “seen” the document;
  • it is then a “leak” of a memo of a telephone conversation and all at third hand — Bermann☞Coffinier☞unnamed UK official;
  • the information was “on a confidential basis”, so its revelation is an embarrassment to both national governments;
  • rashly, an adverb one might not ever readily apply to Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister got personal, down and dirty;
  • the document emerges late on a Friday, a Bank Holiday Friday, when government officials have departed for a long weekend. Fridays play quite a rôle in what follows.

And we can, of course, trust the Torygraph?

Well, let’s consider how George Galloway was stitched up. You’ll find the term “forgery” twenty-one times in that account. It’s a long read, so I’ll leave you to enjoy. One thought before we swiftly pass on: even were the document no forgery, there remains the further oddities of how the Torygraph got it, and used it with malevolent intent. We need not speculate on why. And, in the present case, we have confirmation: Private Eye And the Daily Mail is an impeccable source? MailwailA bit self-regarding, don’tcha think, of the Mail to harken back to 1924 — for, ahem, there is the small matter of the Zinoviev letter, presumably concocted by White Russians, and deployed by the Tory Party at a convenient moment in the 1924 General Election. And published by … the Daily Mail. I like this one because it has a parallel existence to the Sturgeon canard. The language that Gregor Zinoviev uses (27 October 1924) almost echoes Sturgeon’s denial. Compare and contrast:

The letter of 15th September, 1924, which has been attributed to me, is from the first to the last word, a forgery. … The forger has shown himself to be very stupid in his choice of the date. On the 15th of September, 1924, I was taking a holiday in Kislovodsk, and, therefore, could not have signed any official letter.

Friday, bloody Friday

The exchange between Coffinier and the unnamed British official took place on a Friday (a French official at his desk on a Friday?) Sturgeon sent a public tweet: Sturgeon

… to the Telegraph’s Scottish political correspondent Simon Johnson read: “.@simon_telegraph your story is categorically, 100%, untrue…which I’d have told you if you’d asked me at any point today.”

Johnson didn’t reply to the First Minister.

The French Embassy has since backed up Sturgeon’s version of events in a statement.

It read: “While the ambassador and the First Minister, some time ago, have discussed the political situation, Ms Sturgeon did not touch on her personal political preferences with regards the future Prime minister.”

Which has more of the “look-and-feel” of the canny Scots lawyer we know Sturgeon to be.

The Tory game-play here mirrors the Zinoviev letter: then the target was the wavering third-party Liberals, now it’s the third-party SNP.

And further back, does another event come to mind?

Ah, yes! The Grand-daddy of them all — The Times and Richard Pigott’s forgeries of Charles Stewart Parnell. The original articles are here.

For and on the present kerfuffle:

Nicola Sturgeon has demanded a civil service inquiry into the leaking of a memo which claimed she privately wanted to see Conservatives remain in power following the May 7 General Election. 

The Scottish National Party leader described the allegation as “100% untrue” and said she had written to Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood to demand a Whitehall probe into how the account of her conversation with the French ambassador was obtained by the Daily Telegraph. 

She said the story was a sign of “panic” in Westminster over the surge in support for the SNP, and issued a challenge to Labour leader Ed Miliband to state publicly that he would work with the SNP to “lock out” David Cameron from Downing Street in the event of a hung parliament.

 Only around the tenth to twelfth paragraph, even in this “updated” version, do we get to the caveats and Nicola Sturgeon’s firm denial. Odd, that.

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Filed under Conservative family values, Conservative Party policy., crime, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, sleaze., smut peddlers, SNP, Times, Tories.

Numbers

Three “experiments” (none really worthy of the term) come to mind.

One was a primary-school headteacher who attempted to illustrate size by painting a million dots on the playground tarmac. It had to be done by putting tens into blocks of hundreds, hundreds into thousands … The result was a surface suffering from acute, multi-coloured chickenpox, and achieving total incomprehensibility.

At the other end (and here I’m dredging my memory, so E&OE), Konrad Lorenz did a thing with ducks. He successively removed ducklings from the mother duck. The mother became distressed only when the last-but-two duckling was offed. Lorenz concluded that ducks count “One, two, many …”

The third was my own attempt to get students to appreciate the limits of their imaginations.

  • “Close your eyes. Imagine — say a milk-bottle on the doorstep.” [Gosh! That dates me. When did one last see that domestic detail?]
  • “Now put a second bottle down beside it. OK: everyone got a mental image?” Nods all round.
  • “And a third. And a fourth …”

My own conceptualising ran out at seven. Then I had to “see” two rows of four … Either my persuasion was so good, or that’s about the natural limits. Very few students claimed to be able to produce a clear picture of more than seven.

Holocaust

Here’s another example of our intellect being betrayed by number.

The Greek word means “consumed by fire”. At some point it was transformed into mass-sacrifice, and therefore into its modern usage. That may date from Tyndale’s Bible of 1526:

… to love a mans neghbour as him silfe ys a greater thynge then all holocaustes and sacrifises. [Mark’s Gospel, 12.33]

Numbering the dead

I had a look back to President Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor speech. I wasn’t too surprised to notice the vagueness over the casualties (which hadn’t yet been properly assessed, of course):

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

That is about the sum of it.

Similarly, President Bush on the evening of 9/11, is far from crystal clear:

Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes or in their offices: secretaries, business men and women, military and federal workers, moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror.

“Thousands of lives”: at Pearl Harbor the count made later was:

The Navy and Marine Corps suffered a total of 2,896 casualties of which 2,117 were deaths (Navy 2,008, Marines 109) and 779 wounded (Navy 710, Marines 69). The Army (as of midnight, 10 December) lost 228 killed or died of wounds, 113 seriously wounded and 346 slightly wounded. In addition, at least 57 civilians were killed and nearly as many seriously injured.

And

The September 11 attacks resulted in 2,996 immediate (attack time) deaths: 2,977 victims and the 19 hijackers. A total of 372 people with non-U.S. citizenship (excluding the 19 perpetrators) perished in the attacks, representing just over 12% of the total. The immediate deaths include 246 victims on the four planes (from which there were no survivors), 2,606 in New York City in the World Trade Center and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon. About 292 people were killed at street level by burning debris and falling bodies of those who had jumped or fallen from the World Trade Center’s windows. All the deaths in the attacks were civilians except for 55 military personnel killed at the Pentagon. Some immediate victims were not added to the list until years later.

I seriously doubt that many of us carry cold statistics, like those, in our heads. We round the numbers at best, or focus on the odd one or two victims known to us.

So those 888,246 ceramic poppies I saw planted in the Tower of London moat come down to a single grave, my grandfather’s, at Doullens Communal Cemetery Ext No 2. The toll of the Second World War subjectively amounts to cousin Jean Chapman, among the other ATS girls of 121 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery, taken out by a sneak bomber at the Imperial Hotel, Great Yarmouth, in 1943.

Je suis Charlie

What I’m attempting to do here is comprehend the upsurge of popular emotion over the Rue Nicolas Appert murders.

I do not believe it is for some abstract: the “Freedom” featured by the Times, the Telegraph and Daily Mail headline screamers:

Freedom

Nor the even-more bizarre metaphor in The New York Times

Charlie Hebdo Carries Torch of Political Provocation

By comparison, and by far, the most effective, human, front page today was that “Up yours!” of the Independent:

timthumb-3.php

It may also be the very name of the magazine: again, not an abstraction but a comfortable prénom.

Twelve, the number of the dead, is one of those iconic numbers, enough for a small circle of acquaintance. It is the complement of the minibus on the way to the football, the population of a typical office, the moment when an empty bar or café starts to feel it is filling up, when we look around and feel we may have chosen the right restaurant after all. It is an understandable, embraceable, personifiable group.

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Filed under Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, History, Independent, New York Times, Quotations, reading, Religious division, Times

And a merry New Year to all our reader…

Angry. Now, there’s a word.

It’s a well-endorsed truth that all the things that come closest to us use good Anglisch. Those Norman-French and other imports are only for the poncy stuff. So the root here is angr– and that’s rooted deep in Old Norse and elsewhere.

It’s often a good thing. It get things done. It narrows one’s options, and focuses the mind marvellously on what matters. Anger in others tells us as much of their character as we need to know.

An example?

Despite the gloss the schoolmen try to put on him, Shakespeare’s Henry V is a bastard. Not genetically, but psychologically. Shakespeare keeps giving us hints (and the presentation of Hank Cinq stems directly from twisted Prince Hal). Consider the way Henry plays with the conspirators in Act II, scene ii; his cruel joke on the common soldier, Williams, in the fourth Act; his cynical wooing of Katharine. And this:

I was not angry since I came to France
Until this instant. Take a trumpet, herald;
Ride thou unto the horsemen on yon hill:
If they will fight with us, bid them come down,
Or void the field; they do offend our sight:
If they’ll do neither, we will come to them,
And make them skirr away, as swift as stones
Enforced from the old Assyrian slings:
Besides, we’ll cut the throats of those we have,
And not a man of them that we shall take
Shall taste our mercy. Go and tell them so.

No way can that be delivered with bombast.

So, to my own cold anger

It stems from the coincidence of two horror stories — one of the present, one implied for the future — i9n today’s press.

Here’s the one:

Hospital A&E units recorded their worst ever performance in the week before Christmas as NHS emergency care services struggled to deal with an unprecedented number of patients arriving, new figures released today show. 

What the NHS calls type 1 A&Es, emergency departments based at hospitals in England, treated and either admitted or discharged just 83.1% of arrivals within the politically important four-hour target in the week ending Sunday 21 December. 

The NHS Constitution says that 95% of patients should be dealt with within that four-hour timeframe, a deadline ministers have promised to meet. 

The 83.1% is the lowest performance against the target since records began in 2004. It came in the week that emergency departments faced a new record high number of A&E patients – 289,530.

Here’s the other:

Hague_Notes_1_3154981b

Haguenotes

Lay aside the macro-economic Big Issue, the Elephant-in-the-room, or (to deploy the ultimate cliché) David Cameron’s repetitious tripe about his long-term economic plan for hard-working families. Get this, folks: the “plan” extends all the way to Election Day on May 7th — after that you and your family are on their own.

What’s left is what has made Britain tick this last seventy years: Nye’s Health Service, free at the point of need from cradle to grave, and Rab Butler’s flawed-but-visionary education system, which delivered the shift from a predominantly working-class population to the bourgeoisification of suburban Britain.

Both are now being dismembered by the toff-class. As Kevin Maguire (I trust, in anger) declares:

Maguire

Conclusion:

Can the stupid party be this stupid?

The anger that attacks on the NHS and education can generate are just what is needed to motivate Labour grass-roots members to tramp streets, knock on doors, stuff envelopes, work on phone-banks. And the Tories (and their LibDem co-conspirators) are stoking up just that. They do offend our sight And not a man of them… Shall taste our mercy.

That’s a bit of good news, this dull, grey first week of January.

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Filed under Conservative family values, Conservative Party policy., Daily Mirror, Daily Telegraph, economy, education, Guardian, health, Kevin Maguire, Labour Party, Tories.

Psalm 146, verse 3

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

And certainly never in opinion polls.

However, is it time to muse on whether something is actually happening?

For months there has been stasis the numerology — which may be why the gurus expiate on the UKIP figures. Now, look at this:

Stephen Bush

MV5BMTk1MjE3MjQ0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTcyMTcyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR7,0,214,317_AL_I was wary when Stephen Bush took over the Telegraph Morning Briefing. He has proved to be witty, original and perceptive. His adaptation of the running item on opinion polls left me cold, particularly as the line-charts never seemed to do any thing (which, since it’s a running average, is actually quite convincing). And no, over the last few days, signs of movement. Odd? How long before the Mrs Tweedys of the Press realise that “the chickens are oop to summut”?

Five months to go!

 

 

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The Widow’s Mite

St NicholasI don’t recall when I first engaged with Economics 101, but it may have been in the choir stalls of St Nicholas, Wells-next-the-Sea, in the mid-1950s. So probably it was during the season of Trinity, and I was tuned in (as a boy soprano might) to the prescribed New Testament reading:

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

22.4.2010: Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna

Not “termites”: two mites!

Ok, let’s resort to the ultimate authority, the OED:

Any small coin of low value; originally applied to a Flemish copper coin, but in English used mainly as a proverbial expression for an extremely small unit of monetary value (see also sense 1b). Occas. used to denote a more specific unit, as a farthing, a half farthing, or (esp. in accounting) some smaller fraction of a farthing. Now hist.

Yes: I’ve had to explicate that further, in another context, by bating a stiver. That was in connection with Robert Browning (stanza ten) and Der Rattenfänger von Hameln:

The Piper’s face fell, and he cried,
“No trifling! I can’t wait! Beside,
I’ve promised to visit by dinnertime
Bagdad, and accept the prime
Of the Head-Cook’s pottage, all he’s rich in,
For having left, in the Caliph’s kitchen,
Of a nest of scorpions no survivor–
With him I proved no bargain-driver,
With you, don’t think I’ll bate a stiver!
And folks who put me in a passion
May find me pipe to another fashion.”

A stiver?

Indeed: as defined — again – by the Oxford English Dictionary:

A small coin (originally silver) of the Low Countries; applied to the nickel piece of 5 cents of the Netherlands (one-twentieth of a florin or gulden, or about a penny English).

In other words: the smallest coin of the realm.

Not quite an episode of the madeleine, then

More one of post-prandial ginger cake and a relaxed second bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.

For, it was then the Lady in my Life drew my attention to Polly Toynbee:

… last week Ed Miliband bet the bank – plus bankers’ bonuses – that ballooning inequality was the great issue of our time. He’s not alone, as the International Monetary Fund, the World Economic Forum and even Mark Carney of the Bank of England identify it as the root cause of long-term economic woe: if too many are paid too little, who buys the goods and pays the taxes?

In his “zero-zero economy” speech Miliband threw off inhibition to hammer out his long-term theme – how inequality, insecurity and low pay cause a standard of living crisis that looks dangerously like the new normal. This is Labour’s authentic message, not political calculation or a left lurch, but what the party’s for. The pretence that Labour is anything else always reeked of the Westminster dissembling and inauthenticity that drives voters away. For both main parties, the middle ground begins to look more like a death zone than the winning turf.

Or to put a few numbers in there:

 Those earning over £2.7m contribute 4.2% of all income tax, while the lowest-paid third contribute 4%.

Polly is citing from the Telegraph‘s despairing How top 3,000 earners pay more tax than bottom 9m.

The difference is those top earners do it out of shed-loads of “disposable” income — monies which are available to deploy after all living costs,  including the Bentley,  the au-pairs, and the Swiss chalet,  have been settled.

The poor pay their whack, like it or not, in constrained deductions, such as VAT on essential living, and the new taxes, beloved by “conservative” Tories, such as the Bedroom Tax and ever-ramped transport costs.

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Filed under Conservative family values, Daily Telegraph, economy, equality, Guardian, Literature, Quotations, social class, socialism., Wells-next-the-Sea

The next ten words

The West Wing, series 4, episode 6, Game on:

President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet:

There it is. That’s the ten word answer my staff’s been looking for for two weeks. There it is. Ten-word answers can kill you in political campaigns. They’re the tip of the sword. Here’s my question: What are the next ten words of your answer? Your taxes are too high? So are mine. Give me the next ten words. How are we going to do it? Give me ten after that, I’ll drop out of the race right now. Every once in a while… every once in a while, there’s a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts. Other than that, there aren’t very many unnuanced moments in leading a country that’s way too big for ten words.

Here’s Bob Neill, the senescent Tory MP for Bromley & Chislehurst doing his dirty dozen:

My [Private Member’s] Bill [for an EU referendum] is not about whether, at the end of the day, we should stay in the EU or leave. That is exactly why David Cameron is right to insist that we seek a proper re-negotiation of the terms of our membership first, and then put what is on offer to the British people in a vote.

Got that?

The essence is those ten words:

 not about … we should stay in the EU or leave.

Forgive me for being familiar, Bob. We were once on first-name terms back in Havering, when you were junior under-strapper, substitute voice-mail for John Loveridge.

So what is it about, Bob?

  • You apparently agree there should be a proper re-negotiation of the terms of our [EU] membership before putting the issue to a referendum.

OK, Bob. As a barrister you might be aware of the law’s delays. Yet you assume there would be a “result” negotiating with the 26 other nations of the EU between the hypothetical enstoolment of a new Tory government in mid-May 2015 and Cameron’s promised 2017 referendum.

Do tell us, Bob, when the EU has ever moved that quickly.

  • You seem to imply the Referendum is not about continued membership of the EU. It’s more about the conditions of membership:

many of my constituents work in the City of London, the global leader in financial services, so a genuine free market in that industry alone (which we do not yet have – just try getting into the German insurance market as a UK company) is an imperative. Any new relationship with our partners must reflect that reality. But it needs a fresh public endorsement …

Well, Bob, you and I know full well that the City of London would spawn kittens in droves if #Brexit was imminent.

Yet, when you won (just: majority 633) your 2006 by-election in one of those rock-safe suburban Tory seats, Farridge for the Kippers was still a whimper of his later swagger. He ran third, well behind the Lib Dems.

Now there’s up to a third of the 2010 vote up for grabs: add the Lib Dem defectors and the “word-in-the-street” types to the essentially racist elements. And the Kippers are on the march: they took Cray Valley Ward and only the BNP vote-splitters stopped them taking Mottingham in the Borough Elections.

We could continue in this vein, but — yes, Bob — You’ve got a real fight on.

What are your next ten words, Bob? And the ten after them?

Are you a serious “better-off-outer”, or are you just playing footsie with the weirdoes, the fruit-cakes, and the plain nasties?

And you used to be such a nice young man.

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Filed under Conservative family values, Daily Telegraph, Elections, EU referendum, London, Tories., UKIP